Adequate sleep and nourishment are essential for normal newborn growth. Although newborn sleeping and eating patterns vary, your baby will probably sleep for a total of 18 hours each day, waking for short periods at least every 2 to 3 hours. When your newborn wakes up, he or she will usually be hungry and need to be fed. This pattern dominates your baby's first few weeks.
At about 3 weeks, your newborn's nervous system is mature enough that he or she can wait longer between feedings and interact with you more. This is a good time to try delaying feeding for a short time by cuddling or talking. But, take cues from your baby. Don't force your baby to engage with you when he or she is not responding and appears to be very hungry.
You will probably help limit nighttime feedings by avoiding socializing with your baby and lingering after he or she has finished eating. Keep the light off, use a soft voice, and respond to your baby quickly, so he or she doesn't have a chance to fully wake up. If you find that you enjoy this time together and want to give your baby attention, plan for a time you can rest the following day to avoid fatigue.
Newborn sleep cycles include short periods of active sleep, characterized by murmuring and restlessness, that occur about every 50 to 60 minutes. This restlessness usually lasts a few minutes, and if you leave your baby alone, he or she is likely to fall back asleep. At first, babies often sleep through loud noises, but later they become easily disturbed by noises such as the phone ringing or a dog barking.
As your baby grows, other factors will increasingly influence his or her schedule, such as temperament, a sense of feeling full, and how you respond to hunger cues.
Last Revised: February 2, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
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